Sports, Men's Basketball

Trio Of Guards Lifts Eagles To Upset Over Friars

“Our players are more excited, our players play harder. You have to have a great environment—this is college basketball.”

There’s something special about great scorers when they’re at the top of their game—when they’re “feeling it.” A certain confidence arises, one that everyone on the floor can feel. The guy wants the ball, everyone knows it—and there’s nothing the opposing team can do about it.

Olivier Hanlan seems to have reached that level on Friday night, scoring the first five points for Boston College men’s basketball team, leading the charge for much of the game. After putting up nine points against Marist earlier in the week, the guard finished with 24 total Friday, giving BC the lift it needed to upset Providence College, 69-60.

BC came in looking for revenge against the Friars, who bested the Eagles in an overtime thriller last season. This matchup proved to be another tight one, with seven lead changes in the first half. While Providence had its way down low early on, BC stepped up from beyond the arc. The Eagles entered the game with the sixth-worst 3-point percentage in the country before hitting three of its first five, opening the paint for BC’s guards to penetrate.

They didn’t hesitate. BC’s top three guards—Hanlan, Aaron Brown, and Dimitri Batten—combined for 51 points on the night. When the Eagles couldn’t finish at the rim, they managed to draw a foul and get to the line, attempting a season-high 28 free throws. BC struggled at the charity stripe for much of the night, however, making just one of its first five, and going three of eight in the final minute of the game.

Despite these struggles, BC stayed within single digits for the entire first half. With 30 seconds to play in the half, Will Magarity made a lay-up to give the Eagles a three-point lead, and a new factor appeared: the crowd. The student section in Conte Forum—which often rivals the attendance of 8 a.m. lecture hall classes—filled early on in the night. Students lined up a full hour and a half before tip-off, thanks in part to two promotions from the Athletic Department: free “Beat Providence” Superfan shirts to the first 1,000 students and a raffle to win a 40-inch television.

“I thought our student body was great,” head coach Jim Christian said. “These kids [on the team] are working unbelievably hard and deserve that environment. Without question, when [students] are here, they’re a factor. I just watch it in our players. Our players are more excited, our players play harder. You have to have a great environment—this is college basketball.”

Even after PC’s Carson Desrosiers nailed a three-pointer at the buzzer to tie the game and ignite the Friars’ crowd, the energy didn’t die. BC’s fans remained loud for the rest of the game, and were continually re-inspired by several highlight reel plays.

It wasn’t flashy drives to the rim that gave the Eagles their advantage, although they had many. The team held LaDontae Henton, Providence’s best scorer with 23.1 PPG, to 4-16 shooting and just nine points. Meanwhile, PC’s top two leaders in points on the night, Desrosiers and Kris Dunn, were forced to the bench midway through the second half after each picked up a fourth foul.

By neutralizing the Friars’ most dangerous threats and generally minimizing mistakes in the final stretch, BC never allowed Providence to take a lead in the second half, finishing strong for its second consecutive game.

Ultimately, the best facet of the Eagles’ game on Friday was not forcing the offense through its big men. Until Dennis Clifford demonstrates a more consistent ability to finish in the paint or freshman Idy Diallo returns from his injury, the team’s most effective strategy is to keep the ball in the hands of its guards. BC improved its ability to move the ball and find the open shot in each game this year, and the team will need to keep finding as many good looks as possible to avoid its streaks of spotty shooting.

Featured Image by Arthur Bailin / Heights Editor

December 7, 2014